Easter, COVID-19, and New Beginnings

Easter, COVID-19, and New Beginnings
Empty Tomb (c) 2014 John Thurman

I hope your Easter Celebration went well.

It was one memorable experience for millions of believers around the world as we celebrated this most critical day in Christianity while living in the shadow of COVID-19.

Over the weekend, I chose to reflect on the oldest Creed in the Church. The early church leaders developed The Apostle’s Creed, otherwise known as the Nicene Creed. It was a brief and basic statement that covered the import truths of the Lord Jesus and could be easily taught and recited, as most of the population were illiterate.

I believe in God,

the Father almighty,

Creator of heaven and earth,

and in Jesus Christ, his only Son, our Lord,

who was conceived by the Holy Spirit,

born of the Virgin Mary,

suffered under Pontius Pilate,

was crucified, died and was buried;

he descended into hell;

on the third day, he rose again from the dead;

he ascended into heaven,

and is seated at the right hand of God the Father almighty;

from there he will come to judge the living and the dead.

I believe in the Holy Spirit,

the holy catholic Church,

the communion of saints,

the forgiveness of sins,

the resurrection of the body,

and life everlasting. Amen.

From a hut in African to the crowded high rises in Dubai, believers spend a part of the day reflecting on these truths. People from around the globe reflected on the fact that Jesus suffered, was crucified, died and was buried; he descended into hell; on the third day, he rose again from the dead.

How did you celebrate yours?

We watched several services today from Franklin Graham and Michael W. Smith in Central Park in front of the Samaritan’s Purse Field Hospital to viewing an Anglican friend, provide his homily, and enjoying my Church’s live stream.

At lunch, our son, daughter in law, grandson, and my daughter in law’s mom came over for lunch. We did elbow bumps, washed our hands, and gave thanks. My daughter-in-law’s family is from Armenia, and one of the dishes that she brought today was a rice dish with golden raisins. I asked her about the tradition, and she said that the rice represents the people of this world and that the golden raisins represent the sweet presence of Jesus in our lives, even in troubling times.

Wow, what a sermon in a simple dish.

No doubt this, Easter will be one that we will remember for the rest of our lives on this earth.

We have been in a time of loss and death over the past several weeks. Not just those individuals and families who have been directly impacted by COVID-19, but our society has been forced to hit a life-changing pause button. Our movements are limited, many businesses closed, and life as we have known it has come to an abrupt halt.

So, what’s next? 

Well, many of you know that I am an optimist.

I do not believe that we will pick up where we left off. I don’t think that we will ever be able to go back to the way things were. Hopefully, during this externally forced pause, you and I have had a chance to recalibrate and to do some soul searching. 

So what will be different?

Our ways of socializing will have to jump through some hoops as we begin to reintegrate in our places of work, worship, and gatherings.

Some businesses and churches will adapt and adjust to a new reality. Some will close up shop. 

Some of the most exciting things we will see as the country reopens for business are that we will see young and old entrepreneurs look for opportunities.  I also believe that successful businesses will make the adjustments and expand their opportunities to serve others. Anyone who has caught any news in the past several weeks have heard stories of business leaders and entrepreneurs finding ways to adapt and create systems to deal with the crisis at hand.

In my work as a counselor/coach, and trainer, I am embracing new ways of providing those services with Face Time, Duo, Zoom, and direct telephone services. Besides, I am launching two online learning programs through Thinkific. The two working titles are Tactical Stress Management and How to Effectively Minister in Difficult Times. 

I am genuinely excited about what lies ahead.

How about you?

Entrepreneurial friends, this new reality will either provide you with an opportunity to grow or fail. The decision will be yours.

Did you know that one of the biggest dream killers is fear? A couple of years ago, I wrote The No Fear Entrepreneur, which is based on a survey I did with 1500 primarily faith-based entrepreneurs. The book helps the reader identify those fears and provides the reader with healthy, faith-friendly ways to identify, manage, and overcome those fears that might be holding them back.

I want to hear from you. Whether you are a home-based business operation, a manager at a government agency, or a manager in corporate America, I’d like to know your plan to reboot your business.

I look forward to hearing from you as we launch into this new adventure of restarting commerce.

While we celebrate the resurrection of Jesus Christ, also lets hopefully look forward to what lies ahead.

Let’s also come through this unusual cycle of loss to a resurrected economy and fresh ways for doing business and ministry.

I am excited, are you?

Let me hear from you.

Blessings,

John Thurman

PVB356

Resilience at Work

Image of resilience at work
Diagram of Resilience at Work

Have you experienced an increase in workplace stress? Does the notion of Work-Life balance make sense to you or just some weird sort of pipe dream? Do you feel like you can be a success in your chosen field? Or, do you like so many, spend time mining Facebook, Instagram, Twitter, LinkedIn, and Snapchat looking for that magic idea that will help them make Six Figures?

So how can a person become successful in their chosen field or in any area? How can you be more resilient at work? The answer may surprise you!

Like so many of my generation and the generations that have followed we were told that that “secret to success” is being smart, talented, and going above and beyond the requirements of the job, taking additional tasks, and maybe even sacrifice your personal time for the good of the organization.

Sounds like the Sirens of the Odyssey, distractions from the digital wasteland beckon us to follow some types of “path to riches.” 

There is no doubt that there is a rapid increase in work-related stress. I know, because I have worked as an Employee Assistance Consultant for several years. A big part of that job is helping both employees and employers find ways to increase productivity and positive outcomes while at the same time, minimizing the effects of stress. This is one reason that the workplace is seeing the rapid growth of Work-Life presentations and training.

Just think about the past 10 years, the workplace has been impacted with furloughs, downsizing, massive technological advances along with monumental shift is the way business is done. The “Amazonification” of the retail work has shaken many traditional business models. Globalization has had an impact on all manner of business from small mom and pop shops, governmental agencies, as well as such well older, established nationally branded companies. On an even deeper level, the rapidly escalating field of Artificial Intelligence (AI) could be taking us places that we have never imagined.

Whew! That last paragraph made me feel some stress!

With all of these changes, you must learn how to increase your capacity to manage stress and become more resilient.

Resilience is a word that has been thrown around for years but began to become more prominent after 911.

Resilience is the ability to face adversity and work-related challenges and not only bounce back, but to experience personal growth.

The workplace, whether in a manufacturing plant or the corner office or a high-rise offers a broad range of stressors to people. 

From meeting production quotas to dealing with the ever-changing landscape of various service-related business to the work of big business and governmental agencies, we are seeing a dramatic increase in stress-related issues.

So, what does resilience in the workplace look like? Why is it important? Is it possible for a person to become more resilient?

Here is some promising news!

Resilience is both a mindset and a skill that can be strengthened. As with any life skill, resilience can be enhanced with practice.

Resilience is an active, fluid, and dynamic process.

So, what sets a resilient employee apart from everybody else?

Resilient employees have made healthy connections and have a variety of relationships, both on and off the job. The trademark of these supportive relationships is that there is a history of excellent, two-way communication.

Resilient workers will do what they can do to help others, they are consistent team players.

Another quality of resilient workers that they understand the importance of social support at work, home, and in the community.

They understand the benefits of developing both personal and professional networks, which can be a significant source of guidance, support, and accountability at all times, whether gold or bad.

Some additional qualities of resilient workers are that they habitually demonstrate the ability to build trust with others. One of the unique findings in the research was that resilient team members don’t take work too seriously. They generally tend to be “playful” at times[i], which increases the overall sense of positivity in the workplace.

The modern workplace is stressful. Technology, the rapid & immense shifts in the way we do business, can be a constant source of stress. Rare is the individual who starts a career in one place and stays there until they are retirement eligible unless they are government workers or military.

Employees who are resilient have an ability to managing stress effectively and to keep pressure from becoming detrimental and overwhelming. They are more likely to focus on self-care, after a stressful event. In other words, they take kinetic and focused measures to avoid compassion fatigue and, worse, burnout.

A final characteristic of a resilient employee is they are authentic and strive to behave in a way that is consistent with their core values. They practice what they preach.

They have grit!

Have you ever wondered what grit is? It goes hand in hand with be resilient.

According to the research of psychologist Susan Kobasa, three elements appear to be essential when we look at grit to exist: challenge, personal control, and commitment. Kobasa called these the three ‘Cs.’[ii]

Commitment.  They have a sense of purpose in their life.  They are committed to their dreams and tackle challenges head-on. Part of the reason hardy people can stay in the game and persist in their coping efforts is that as a group, they are committed to an active, engaged stance towards life. They feel that their life has a purpose (whatever shape that may be). That purpose motivates them to actively attempt to influence their surroundings and to persevere even when their attempts to influence their surroundings don’t appear to be working out. A person who has no purpose in life –no motivation and no commitment –will not be able to lead a resilient life. On the other hand, resilient people find meaning in their activities even when faced with significant adversity precisely because they are committed to taking an active, problem-solving approach to life.

Challenge. Individuals with grit have a sense of purpose in life see problems as challenges, and they devote time, effort and energy into solving them

They are connected to their dreams and their mission. They tackle things head-on.  People with grit remain involved in an endeavor despite stressful circumstances such as changes in the marketplace, business systems, and the economy. People lacking grit tend to pull back from their dream or opportunity and drift into isolation or alienation.  People with grit view stress as a challenge that they can potentially overcome when they can understand it correctly. Their habit of looking at problems to be overcome motivates them to address the causes of their stress in positive ways.

I remember one of my early mentors who used to continually say things like, “We don’t have problems, we have opportunities to grow, excel, and learn.

This active approach to life challenges may be contrasted with the more common approach, where stress and problems are viewed as an unfortunate, overwhelming, or even paralyzing force that overwhelms rather than motivates.

Personal Control.  Gritty people believe they are in charge of and responsible for their lives and that they have the power to change it. They understand that they cannot control what happens to them. They can only control their response to it. If they don’t have the skill sets to do something, they will go out of their way to get them.

As a group, people with grit people, people who are resilient tend to accept challenges and to work to overcome and master them. Even when true mastery of a challenge is not possible (e.g., when a situation is not possible to control), gritty people work to find what possibilities do exist for mastery and pursue them. When faced with the loss of employment, a hardy, or resilient person would seize upon opportunities for exploring new employment options rather than become depressed and demoralized.

How about you? Do you consider yourself a person with grit, are you someone who exemplifies hardiness? In your work and personal life, are you resilient?

In my next post, I will share the seven secrets to building resilience in your day to day life.



[i] Kobasa, S. C. (1979). Stressful life events, personality, and health: An inquiry into hardinessJournal of Personality and Social Psychology, 37(1), 1-11. http://dx.doi.org/10.1037/0022-3514.37.1.1 [http://psycnet.apa.org/record/1980-21134-001]

Coronavirus & Telework

Coronavirus and telework

Preparing for Telework

Some proven practices from resilient teleworkers.

The Coronavirus news is penetrating every aspect of our culture from the ancient liturgical customs of the common cup of communion to avoiding crowds. I tend to agree with the medical professionals who are realistic but calm. To be resilient citizens and workers, we need to do the things we can to control the spread of this virus. As a life-saving measure, your company or agency may choose to allow teleworking.

So with the numbers increasing every day, there is a reasonably good chance, at least in some parts of the country that businesses and governmental agencies will move to more teleworking, at least for some time.

With that in mind, I took some time to do some research on good teleworking habits. My goal is to help you become a more resilient worker and manager.

These are from multiple sources as well as from my own work as a Worklife Consultant with numerous governmental agencies.

This article will focus on both employees and managers.

12 TIPS FOR EFFECTIVE TELEWORKING

  1. Dress for work. This helps you get prepared for your regular business hours physically, mentally, and emotionally.
  2. Set normal business hours. Be clear with family and friends that you have certain periods during the day that you cannot be disturbed. One friend actually has a home office in an open space in her home has a homemade sign that says, “DO NOT DISTURB!’ And on the other side, “COME ON IN!” This helps her be able to focus and get work tasks done.
  3. Try “Chunking!” Our human brain works best when we break up a task or day by chunking. Chunking is a process where you take 25 minutes and drill in and focus on your task or project and then walkway for five minutes. This system helps you lower your distraction and really dig into the task at hand, and it has a built-in break of 5 minutes every half an hour. Now you may be tempted to go for fifty minutes and take a ten-minute break. Still, many time management experts feel that the break every thirty minutes actually makes you more productive and increases your personal sense of accomplishment. 
  4. Zone In and focus on the tasks at hand. For me, that sometimes means turning off my iPhone and turning off any notifications for messages and emails. It is amazing, when I do this, I can get tasks done quickly and usually ahead of schedule.
  5. Maximize your use of technology. If this is an area that needs improvement, teleworking is a great way to enhance your skills and use of technology. Skype, Facetime, Zoom, and other virtual meeting places can keep you and your coworkers both connected and on task.
  6. Stay out of the kitchen, laundry room, and bedroom. Work in your home office, or designated space. Who knows, you can do chores if you finish early.
  7. Purchase some inexpensive noise-canceling headphones, if you are easily distracted by noise.
  8. Manage your workload. Many times, we can complete tasks in a more timely manner when we telework because of fewer work-related distractions.
  9. Be intentional about staying in touch with your manager/supervisor and coworkers.
  10. Avoid going to non-work appointments during working hours. 
  11. This one is a little weird, but I have been told it works. Take the time that it usually takes you to get to work, and use that time to help you prepare for your teleworking. For example, if you leave the house at 7:30 and arrive at work at 8:00, use that time to prepare yourself for work. Try not to use if for chores.
  12. Move around when you take your breaks.

5 Tips for Leaders and Managers

  1. Use NATO for a way of leading team meetings. Nature, Agenda, Time, and Outcomes. This helps you stay on time, keep your focus, and helps all participants feel that the meeting was timely and productive.
  2. When holding team meetings, rotate facilitators. This not only maintains individual and group accountability but gives everybody’s voice a chance to be heard and is an excellent way for emerging leaders to develop.
  3. Schedule regular one-on-one meetings, This is a great way to have direct, personal contact with your team members.
  4. Be creative in finding ways for team members to connect, while teleworking. If feasible and practical, try to have some gathering while teleworking. That is if it is safe and appropriate.
  5. Don’t forget the importance of appropriate praise and recognition for the team. Whether texting, messaging, or on team calls, make sure you acknowledge the work of your organization. This is an excellent way towards building morale and can go a long way in keeping the team connected and concerned for each other.

For the latest CDC Reports on Coronavirus

How to Reset Your Failed New Year’s Resolutions

How to Reset You Failed New Year's Resolutions

STOP!  How are you doing with your resolutions? I hope you are feeling great about them. However, research suggests that most of us are not doing such a good job of maintaining them.

Is it time to reset your failed New Year’s resolutions? We are beginning the second week of January are you feeling hopeful, focused and enriched or hopeless, scattered, dazed and confused?

As we move into what could be an enjoyable and exciting New Year, I thought it would be fun to look at the traditional Top 10 resolutions and then give you some tips on how to be more successful in meeting them.

These are from Statistic Brain.

Lose Weight/Healthier Eating

Life/Self Improvement

Better Financial Decisions

Quit Smoking

Do More Exciting Things

Spend More Time with Family/Close Friends

Work Out More Often

Learn Something New On My Own

Do More Good Deeds For Others

Find The Love Of My Life

NEWS FLASH! According to Statistic Brain, the average American has a 9.2 percent chance of keeping them.

But don’t lose hope! I am going to show you how to reset your failed New Year’s Resolutions.

Here is the 4 Question Tool that will help you reset your failed New Year’s Resolutions.

In reviewing 2019, resist the temptation to overthink 2019.

Instead, ask:

What did I do right?

What did I do wrong?

What can I do better?

What did I/we do, right?

I want you to really drill into this and think about what you did right in 2019. What can you celebrate from this past year? Think about your personal, relational, and professional life. Take some time to review, celebrate, and express genuine gratitude for the positive things that you were able to accomplish. Spend twice as much time answering this question as to the next.

What did I/we do wrong?

Be very careful and proceed with caution when you answer this question. I would not want you to suffer from the paralysis of analysis.

Dolly Parton says, “I thank God for my failures. Maybe not at the time but after some reflection. I never feel like a failure just because something I tried has failed.”

So, take half of the time you spent reviewing what you did right to reflect and list what you did wrong. 

This way, you can honestly look at the missteps, call them what they are, and take corrective action.

This leads me to the next question, which is the key to having a better year in 2020!

What can I/we do better?

This, I believe, is the most crucial step you can take! After celebrating the victories, acknowledging the lost opportunities and missteps, no, it is time to begin laying out a definite action plan.

A few days ago, I was on Facebook and saw a message that one of my friends had posted, and it got me thinking. The quote said:

You are not born a winner. You are not born a loser. You are born a chooser! So choose wisely!

The key to making and keeping resolutions is to have Sustainable Motivation and Energy.  How do you do that? The key is to be clear about what you want and why you want it. When you understand your “what” and “why,” you will increase the odds of being able to experience success with resolutions.

Michelle Segar, from the University of Michigan’s Center for Positive Organization, has developed a practical way of streamlining this process.

Segar suggests four action steps to begin applying the Right Why to changes you want to make in 2020:

#1: Reflect

Consider your “whys” for initiating a lifestyle change, and ask yourself if it has symbolized that this change/behavior is a chore or a gift?

#2: Reset

Know that we’ve all been socialized to think about a “healthy” lifestyle from the same perspective, one that has turned them into medicine instead of the vehicles of joy and meaning that they indeed are. Let go of any sense of personal failure because the formula we’ve been taught sets us up for starting and stopping but not sustaining. People feel like failures, and this isn’t very good for motivation.

#3: Choose

Consider the specific experiences, that if you had more of them in your day, would lead you to feel better and drive greater success in your roles. Do you feel drained and need more energy? Do you need more time to connect with loved ones? Then pick one of these experiences – this is what the right Why is – and identify what lifestyle behavior might deliver it to you. It’s essential to focus on changing one behavior at a time because the goal is to institutionalize it into our lives. Humans have a limited capacity for decision making, so we must strategically use it as the scarce resource it truly is.

#4: Experiment

Experiment with a plan for one week to see what happens. Be mindful of the types of things that get in the way. Plan a date on your schedule to sit down and evaluate whether that behavior helped you realize your right. Why and also what you might want to tweak going forward. Because it’s an opportunity to learn, there is no failure. It’s about continuing to experiment with whys and ways to achieve them until you discover what works for you.  From Sustainable Motivation for New Year’s Resolutions, by Chris White.

Here is an ancient text to consider as you move into the New Year. It is found in Proverbs 3:5-6

Trust in the LORD with all your heart; do not depend on your own understanding. Seek his will in all you do, and he will show you which path to take. Proverbs 3:5-6 NLT

I hope that 2020 is a year filled with opportunity, hope, and joy. I also hope that this next decade will be filled with blessings, growth, and peace.

Be sure to subscribe to my update as I will be giving you 10 tools you can use to have an Outstanding 2020!

Recapture Your Vision: Work on Balance


Picture

(c)2013 John Thurman, Marseille Bike 1

Recapture Your Vision

Work on Balance

Businesses, life, and relationships that are vibrant and productive are powered by a vision. One of the keys to pushing back the negative, building relationship, expanding your business is to keep your balance.

Maintaining balance is critical to breaking the bonds of depression. When I ride a bicycle, which is a sight to behold, I am constantly trying to stay balanced. All of the small and large muscle groups work together to keep the bicycle and me in an upright position and going in the right direction. Balance takes work. You can begin attaining balance.

1.   Break out of your rut.

a.   Take 100 percent responsibility for yourself. You and I hold the keys that can unlock the lock and release the chains that hold us back.

b. Think, dream and write down how you will feel better in the future.

c.   Move more – even a little bit of exercise has positive benefits.

d. Read books and listen to teaching and training  that put good, healthy thoughts in your brain. Try more self-help and Christian living and less fiction.

2.   Remember and repeat past joyful, fulfilling experiences. Begin by remembering, looking at photos, and reflecting on good things. Read through and work on the Experience Gratitude section.

3.   Re-embrace your relationship with God. Jesus loves you more than you will ever know, and He specializes in working with people who feel messed up and disconnected. Take a moment; ask Him to draw you close. Then don’t be surprised when He does.

4.   Don’t overplay the negative. Overthinking the past does little to improve it. The rest of this resource is designed to give you practical, biblical tools to help you move toward hope and a renewed sense of purpose and intentional living.

From Get a Grip on Depression, by John Thurman